The United States Senate Joint Resolution Condemning White Nationalists, Neo Nazis, KKK, and Other Hate Groups

Yesterday, the United States Senate unanimously approved a resolution condemning white nationalists, neo-Nazis, KKK,  and other hate groups. It was the right decision, of course, and the resolution now goes to the House, and to the president if it passes both chambers. It’s more than regrettable – it’s a disgrace, truly – that this president could not have spoken half so well on his own.

The text of the resolution and a .pdf version appear below:

S. J. RES. 49


JOINT RESOLUTION

Condemning the violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place during events between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia, recognizing the first responders who lost their lives while monitoring the events, offering deepest condolences to the families and friends of those individuals who were killed and deepest sympathies and support to those individuals who were injured by the violence, expressing support for the Charlottesville community, rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, and urging the President and the President’s Cabinet to use all available resources to address the threats posed by those groups.

Whereas, on the night of Friday, August 11, 2017, a day before a White nationalist demonstration was scheduled to occur in Charlottesville, Virginia, hundreds of torch-bearing White nationalists, White supremacists, Klansmen, and neo-Nazis chanted racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant slogans and violently engaged with counter-demonstrators on and around the grounds of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville;

Whereas, on Saturday, August 12, 2017, ahead of the scheduled start time of the planned march, protestors and counter-demonstrators gathered at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville;

Whereas the extremist demonstration turned violent, culminating in the death of peaceful counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer and injuries to 19 other individuals after a neo-Nazi sympathizer allegedly drove a vehicle into a crowd, an act that resulted in a charge of second degree murder, 3 counts of malicious wounding, and 1 count of hit and run;

Whereas 2 Virginia State Police officers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, died in a helicopter crash as they patrolled the events occurring below them;

Whereas the Charlottesville community is engaged in a healing process following this horrific and violent display of bigotry; and

Whereas White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups reportedly are organizing similar events in other cities in the United States and communities everywhere are concerned about the growing and open display of hate and violence being perpetrated by those groups: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress—

(1) condemns the racist violence and domestic terrorist attack that took place between August 11 and August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia;

(2) recognizes—

(A) Heather Heyer, who was killed, and 19 other individuals who were injured in the reported domestic terrorist attack; and

(B) several other individuals who were injured in separate attacks while standing up to hate and intolerance;

(3) recognizes the public service and heroism of Virginia State Police officers Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who lost their lives while responding to the events from the air;

(4) offers—

(A) condolences to the families and friends of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, and Trooper Pilot Berke M.M. Bates; and

(B) sympathy and support to those individuals who are recovering from injuries sustained during the attacks;

(5) expresses support for the Charlottesville community as the community heals following this demonstration of violent bigotry;

(6) rejects White nationalism, White supremacy, and neo-Nazism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States; and

(7) urges—

(A) the President and his administration to—

(i) speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, and White supremacy; and

(ii) use all resources available to the President and the President’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States; and

(B) the Attorney General to work with—

(i) the Secretary of Homeland Security to investigate thoroughly all acts of violence, intimidation, and domestic terrorism by White supremacists, White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and associated groups in order to determine if any criminal laws have been violated and to prevent those groups from fomenting and facilitating additional violence; and

(ii) the heads of other Federal agencies to improve the reporting of hate crimes and to emphasize the importance of the collection, and the reporting to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of hate crime data by State and local agencies.

Passed the Senate September 11, 2017.

Download (PDF, 134KB)

Sec. of State Tillerson Distances America from Trump

I’m no fan of Rex Tillerson, an American Secretary of State who is a recipient — from dictator Vladimir Putin — of the Russian Order of Friendship,  but even Tillerson had the sense to disclaim the stain that Trump has spread over this country.

In the clip below, on Fox News, Tillerson makes clear that Trump speaks not for our people but only himself when he defends bigotry. That’s true, of course – we are a better people than Trump is a man. It’s not even close – he’s markedly below the ethical and moral standards of America’s just and worthy people.

(How long Tillerson, such as even he is, will last in this administration one can’t say.)

H/t to Kyle Griffin, a producer at MSNBC, who remarks that the clip is “Must-watch. Wallace asks Tillerson if Trump speaks for American values: “The President speaks for himself.” (Note Wallace’s reaction.)”

The National-Local Mix (Part 2)

On November 18th, I posted on a National-Local Mix, that combination of topics that a blogger might consider under Trump. The need to think about a national-local mix was obvious enough: “Trump is a fundamentally different candidate from those who have come before him.  Not grasping this would be obtuse.  Writing only about sewing circles or local clubs or a single local meeting while ignoring Trump’s vast power as president – and what it will bring about – would be odd. Someone in Tuscany, circa 1925, had more to write about than the countryside.”

To say I’m opposed to Trump, if it had to be said, would be an understatement.

How, though, does one go about deciding what to write about politics, sometimes national, sometimes local?

I’d say there are three steps: (1) be clear about one’s own political beliefs, and find the challenges to those beliefs in (2) national and (3) local policy.

(In this method, finding the challenges is actually a sign of optimism, as it assumes the more easily enumerated group is what’s wrong; if the smaller, more easily counted items were what’s right, then a community would be in truly terrible shape. Most matters in life are not political, and Whitewater in particular would do well to abandon a failed political culture. See, An Oasis Strategy.)

Here’s how those three steps look, in my (libertarian) case —

Political beliefs: individual liberty, limited government, free markets in capital, labor & goods, sound reasoning, peace.

National challenges: authoritarianism, nativism, mendacity, conflicts of interest, poor reasoning, government intervention for businesses, subservience & admiration of Putinism (this last being both a matter of domestic and foreign policy).

Local challenges: closed government, self-interested leadership, grandiosity, conflicts of interest, poor reasoning, government intervention for businesses, and factionalism & lack of community-based enforcement.

Other people would start with different beliefs, and so find different challenges. From the concerns they listed, one would have topics to address that derive from these concerns.

That some officials might have trouble making a list of their own principles (where principles mean more than self-interest) is much to their detriment.

Early Days

We’re in the early days of Trump, and we’ve likely a long and difficult way to go. (My daily count runs from 11.9, so it’s not as early from my vantage.) Even now, however, a solid resistance is forming across the country, including in red states that Trump supporters might otherwise consider unshakably Trump’s. (There is little, in the end, that will prove unshakably Trump’s.)

Clare Foran reports that The Anti-Trump ‘Resistance’ Takes Hold in Red States (“This isn’t a fad, it’s not going away, and there’s nothing coastal or elite about it.”):

Last week, videos went viral of people expressing anger and dismay over the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act during the town hall in Tennessee, a state Trump won by a double-digit margin. So did footage of an angry crowd yelling “Do your job!” at Republican congressman and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz at a town hall in Utah….

In the end, GOP lawmakers will likely be more motivated to act if they believe the demands are coming from a significant number of their constituents. Aguirre, who said he never attended a protest before the election, noted that Utah Indivisible is composed of Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians. “We’re a group of people who are all extremely pissed off,” he explained. Amanda Gormley, a 34-year-old Arizona Democrat and spokesperson for PN Tucson, which formed in opposition to Trump’s election, said her organization is “open to talking to conservatives.” But she clarified that’s not the group’s first priority. Instead, members will focus on encouraging people who voted against Trump to step up their civic engagement.

A few quick points about all this:

  1. For some who oppose Trump (myself included) opposition has nothing to do with being a Democrat, but rather with independent views. Opposition will require a grand coalition from among many, regardless of party.
  2. Foran’s article describes one method of active opposition – one that looks like the Tea Party protests in some respects – but one method is only one method. For every person who attends a rally, there may be many others who write letters and emails, who walk door-to-door, publish posts, etc.
  3. Local, small-town politicians often assume that how they have done something is how others should do something. So, if there’s never been a rally, they react with alarm to a rally (“this can’t be!”) and if no one nearby has ever written a blog, they insist that it’s simply impermissible to do so. (For an aspect of the latter from here in Whitewater, see An Anecdote About an Appeal to (but not of) Authority).
  4. Very few human events move in a straight line; resistance to Trump can expect setbacks and significant losses along the way. One should be Neither Shocked Nor Awed.
  5. For the most part, I believe that Trump, His Inner Circle, Principal Surrogates, and Media Defenders should be the key focus of opposition.
  6. Significantly, this leaves unaddressed the problem of local officials who are, in effect if not avowedly, Trump surrogates. A resistance to Trump nationally that lets local officials carry on as Trump does is a half-resistance. Forming principles for opposition both nationally and locally is necessary.

There’s so much work – good work – to be done.

David Frum Asks: Should a Patriotic American Work for Donald Trump?

Conservative David Frum (with whom a libertarian would have many differences) yet asks and answers rightly the question, Should a Patriotic American Work for Donald Trump?

Frum draws a distinction between personal service to Trump and government positions that are removed from the president:

A law-abiding person will want to stay as far as possible from the personal service of President Trump. As demonstrated by the sad example of Press Secretary Sean Spicer spouting glaring lies on his first day on the job, this president will demand that his aides do improper things—and the low standards of integrity in Trump’s entourage create a culture of conformity to those demands.

After considering service at different levels within the government, Frum concludes with two questions for a potential applicant. They’re both important, but it’s the second one of the two that’s truly telling (my emphasis):

So maybe the very first thing to consider, if the invitation comes, is this: How well do you know yourself? How sure are you that you indeed would say no [to injustices]?

And then humbly consider this second troubling question: If the Trump administration were as convinced as you are that you would do the right thing—would they have asked you in the first place?

It’s tragically plain: what Trump expects of others a just man or woman would never do.

Betsy DeVos: What a Weak Nominee Looks Like

In a confirmation hearing, one might face tough questioning, and those tough questions might – understandably – trip up a nominee. What shouldn’t happen, to someone of normal ability and proper preparation, is to stumble over simple, straightforward questions.

That’s what happened to Trump nominee for secretary of education Betsy DeVos: she stumbled (indeed, almost threw herself to the ground) over direct questions that a capable nominee could have answered: (1) about her wealth, (2) about the difference between growth and proficiency, and (3) about guns in schools. A more capable nominee could have managed these questions easily; she’s not that nominee.

Sen. Sanders asks about DeVos how she became Trump’s nominee:

Sanders: “Okay. My question is, and I don’t mean to be rude. Do you think, if you were not a multi-billionaire, if your family had not made hundreds of millions of dollars of contributions to the Republican Party, that you would be sitting here today?”

DeVos: “Senator, as a matter of fact, I do think that there would be that possibility. I’ve worked very hard on behalf of parents and children for the last almost 30 years to be a voice for students and to empower parents to make decisions on behalf of their children, primarily low-income children.”

How she should have answered: Avoid answering with ‘would be that possibility’; begin with a detailed list of accomplishments in the very first words of her reply, e.g., “There are x contributions that I’ve made to education in this country, and I can list and describe them all, in order, to you now…”

Sen. Franken asks DeVos about the difference between growth and proficiency (where proficiency is hitting a benchmark and growth is about progress from one level of ability to another):

DeVos: “I think, if I’m understanding your question correctly around proficiency, I would also correlate it to competency and mastery, so that each student is measured according to the advancement they’re making in each subject area.”

Franken: “Well, that’s growth. That’s not proficiency.  I’m talking about the debate between proficiency and growth and what your thoughts are on that.”

How she should have answered: DeVos should have known – and made clear she knew – the difference between the two ways to measure progress; contending that she was just clarifying Franken’s question doesn’t mitigate the obvious truth that she didn’t see the distinction between the two. (Franken clearly does understand the difference, so she’s not clarifying his words, she’s making her own error). She either truly doesn’t know the difference, or lacks the intellectual ability or composure to comprehend a question in a formal setting.

Sen. Murphy asks about guns in schools:

Murphy: Do you think guns have any place in or around schools?

DeVos: That is best left to locales and states to decide. If the underlying question is—

Murphy: You can’t say definitively today that guns shouldn’t be in schools?

DeVos: I will refer back to [Wyoming] Sen. [Mike] Enzi and the school he was talking about in Wapiti, Wyoming. I think probably there, I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the schools to protect from potential grizzlies.

How she should have answered: Anything but this. Referring to a senator’s remark about wildlife doesn’t help here. Candidly, she would have been better off contending that guns were useful to defend against Martians: at least she might have been able to later say that she was joking.

Contending that guns in schools are needed to defend against wildlife is world-class buffoonery. A defense, if any, would have to talk about human threats and emphasize limitations to assure those possessing guns were well-trained. The problem here is that there are very few parents who will accept that well-trained means someone other than a police officer. She would have been better off to advocate for more police; even then, there are legitimate concerns about the quality of police training in communities that hire poorly and skimp on training costs.)

Her position is a hard political one to hold in any event, but talking about grizzlies is simply embarrassing.

Trump promised America that he would hire the “best people“; in DeVos he’s picked someone either too dim or too lazy to represent herself adequately, to a level that the vast majority of her fellow citizens easily meet each day.

Distillation for a Resistance (First Edition)

We’re early in this new political era, with a long time ahead of us, and there’s a need to get a sense of one’s bearings. (The sound way to approach the new politics that has overcome America through the three-thousand-year traditional of liberty to be found in many places, the Online Library of Liberty being only one. But that’s the reading and study of a lifetime; there are essays contemporary to us that are both useful and readily distilled.)

These recent essays and posts consider, or a useful to understand, the incipient authoritarianism of America’s next administration. They are a good basis for a beginning, for a distillation of one’s thinking.

Some recent essays for consideration:

Trump’s Search for a Latino Cabinet Secretary

After insulting millions of Latinos during his campaign, Trump’s now having trouble recruiting from among that community, and for that problem he should look in a mirror:

if Trump is having trouble finding Latinos willing to serve in his administration, for fear of being labeled an “Uncle Juan” or a vendido (sellout), he has only himself to blame. His rhetoric has made his persona, brand, and administration toxic to many Latinos. An Associated Press review of the Trump Organization found few Latinos or other minorities in senior leadership roles. Trump refers to Latinos as “The Hispanics” and his idea of Latino outreach during the presidential race was tweeting a picture of himself eating something called a “taco bowl.”

During the campaign, Trump promised that he’d hire only the “best people” for his administration, yet many talented people (of any ethnicity) are unwilling to work for Trump. One reads that Trump Is Desperately Seeking A Latino For His Cabinet. Tom Philpott reports that one (laughable) option turns out to be three-time political loser Abel Maldonado:

Maldonado is the latest in a parade of names Team Trump has floated for USDA, a chaotic process that I last updated here. In California politics, Maldonado is seen as a fallen prodigy. His political career peaked in 2009, when then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed the then-state senator as lieutenant governor. Less then a year later, Maldonado’s campaign to retain that office failed miserably. Since then, he has made unsuccessful bids for a seat in the US House and governor.

In 2016, Maldonado reportedly pitched himself as a potential reality TV star. Here’s The Sacramento Bee:

A video compilation that has rocketed around the Internet recently opens with an apparent working title: Meet the Maldonados. In it, the former state legislator and unsuccessful Republican gubernatorial candidate can be seen drinking wine with his daughter, asking his son about having a condom and laughing after his wife informs their daughter that “we watched porn when you were conceived.”

At one point, a horse starts relieving itself in Maldonado’s house. “Yeah, Sacramento’s better than this,” a flustered Maldonado mutters as he cleans up.

Still, Trump has jobs to fill, and so he’s gone from promising only the best people to searching among the tares to see what he can find.

The Work of the Next Several Years 

Charles Blow writes of the work ahead for those many citizens who now find themselves compelled to defend their rights:

I fully understand that elevated outrage is hard to maintain. It’s exhausting.

But the alternative is surrender to national nihilism and the welcoming of woe.

The next four years could be epochal years in the history of this country. They could test the limits of presidential power and the public’s passivity.

I happen to believe that history will judge kindly those who continued to shout, from the rooftops, through their own weariness and against the corrosive drift of conformity: This is not normal!

Via Donald Trump, This Is Not Normal! – The New York Times.

One cannot say that this will be the work only of the next few years, knowing that often a few years stretch into several. There will be some moments of weariness; they will prove nothing as against the vigor that comes from being in the right.

Who Runs the Economy?

Consider this Twitter exchange between liberty-oriented Republican Justin Amash and a Trump supporter, over the suitability of Trump’s cabinet appointments:

The Trump supporter thinks that the credentials of a cabinet nominee justify the appointment; Rep. Amash rightly sees that credentials do not define the scope of legitimate state action.

How Much, and What Kind, of Military Spending?

Analysts from five Washington policy institutes[1] have published a joint report asking (1) what should American defense strategy be? (2) what capabilities, investments, and force structure might that strategy require? and (3) what would such a military cost?  (The five institutes are not of the same views, with the Cato Institute’s Benjamin H. Friedman notable for advocating fiscal and strategic restraint.)

Here’s the report:

Download (PDF, 4.41MB)

[1] The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), The Cato Institute, The Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The National-Local Mix

localI’ve written at FREE WHITEWATER for over nine years, and I’ll be writing here for far longer to come.  A good friend asked me today if I’d given up on local coverage, and the easy answer is…not at all.  We’ve a small and beautiful city, well worth talking about and contending over.   A few quick remarks for longtime readers, and for some new readers who’ve come to FW since the election —

Plain Views.  I’ve written plainly before, and I’ll do the same now.  My views are libertarian, from a family that was liberty-oriented before the term libertarian became popular. (Dean Russell sometimes gets credit for boosting the word libertarian in 1955, but of course the ideas involved are far older.)  My family came here before the Revolution, and they and many others have held liberty-centric political views throughout their time on this continent, using other descriptions for their politics before libertarian took off in the second half of the twentieth century.

One could say less in the hope of pleasing more, but that’s likely futile.  I would happily decline an invitation to a gathering that favored acceptance over conviction (in the improbable & unwelcome event that anyone would send such an invitation to me).

The Limits of Local.  One of the themes of this site is that towns like ours accomplish the most when they embrace American and not local standards for politics & economics.  In fact, hyper-local standards in politics & economics are lesser standards, easy and comfortable for the myopic but inadequate for a competitive people.  There are a few websites or newspapers nearby that are hyper-local in focus.  That makes sense if one’s writing about a sewing club; it’s both sad and laughable as one’s way of considering political, economic, or fiscal policy.  If hyper-local politics were enough, then one might as well embrace a small village in authoritarian Russia as a small town in democratic America.

Putin’s not detestable because he speaks Russian; he’s detestable because he’s returned oppression to Russia.  The undeniable prettiness of particular Russian villages lessens Putin’s many sins, and Russia’s hardships, not in the slightest.

In same way, Whitewater is not beautiful simply because, so to speak, she’s beautiful; she’s beautiful because America is a free country of which Whitewater is one part.  Hyper-localism at the price of national standards reminds of nothing so much as Socrates’s remarks on the unexamined life.

Whitewater’s Near Term.  I’m an optimist about Whitewater’s longterm, but these next several years will prove difficult for this small, midwestern city.  Whitewater has significant poverty (especially child poverty), and limited growth.  Considering the principal possibilities of a drastic change of course now or a renaissance after continued decline, I’d guess we’ll prove an example of a city that chooses poorly, declines relatively, and rebounds only afterward.   (It needn’t have been this way, but too many mistakes have taken us past the point of a different course.)

Many have enjoyed the James & Deborah Fallows American Futures series on thriving small towns, and it’s disappointing to write that Whitewater’s near future probably will not be like that of those growing towns; there’s much that’s disconcerting about surveying a city – however naturally pretty – that’s a cautionary tale of what not to do.  Disconcerting, but not hard – the hardship of the wrong course will not fall on someone writing about our city, but on the many vulnerable people within it.

The future will write the history of the present; with few exceptions, it will be unkind to the last generation of local policymakers.

Logo.  When I write about local topics, I’ll add the logo that appears in the upper-left corner of this post.

The Mix of National and Local.  Most people in our city, or any other, are naturally sharp.  It’s a libertarian teaching – because it is true and always has been – that the overwhelming number of people are capable and clever (and so need less governmental meddling than they receive).  People who voted for one major party candidate or another are not worse for doing so.  It’s impossible that Americans were fundamentally good until a few weeks ago.

Voting for Clinton or Trump did not make the average person better or worse.  I don’t write this to ingratiate – that wouldn’t be my way, one can guess – but because saying so is consistent with what I have always believed about people.  (In any event, if someone who voted his or her conscience needs reassurance now, he or she should think more carefully.)

Trump is a fundamentally different candidate from those who have come before him.  Not grasping this would be obtuse.  Writing only about sewing circles or local clubs or a single local meeting while ignoring Trump’s vast power as president – and what it will bring about – would be odd.

Someone in Tuscany, circa 1925, had more to write about than the countryside.

One may think otherwise, of course.  It’s simply unrealistic to expect a libertarian to think otherwise (at least if the term is to have any meaning).

I’m not worried about posting both national and local topics, as though some nationally-focused posts will detract from local coverage.  The local die has been cast.  Describing near term local events is now careful narration more than advocacy.  There’s much to say, and in detail, but for local policymakers in this town there’s little room to move.  Perhaps the shifts they can make in the near future will still help those in need.

These will prove, I think, challenging times for those both near and far.

Kakistocracy

There’s a vast difference between the average Trump supporter (similar in most ways to most people) and the people who served in the Trump Campaign and who will serve in a Trump Administration (composed of generous helpings of mediocrities, liars, or bigots).

Ryan Lizza’s found the Greek term kakistocracy, a term that will apply nicely to a Trump Administration:

The Greeks have a word for the emerging Trump Administration: kakistocracy. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as a “government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.” Webster’s is simpler: “government by the worst people.”

The term’s likely to grow in use: Trump’s doing his very best to build an administration of the very worst officials.

Eliot Cohen’s Wise Advice: Don’t Serve Trump

Conservative foreign policy scholar (and member of the Bush Administration) Eliot Cohen admits, “I told conservatives to work for Trump. One talk with his team changed my mind” —

Nemesis pursues and punishes all administrations, but this one will get a double dose. Until it can acquire some measure of humility about what it knows, and a degree of magnanimity to those who have opposed it, it will smash into crises and failures. With the disarray of its transition team, in a way, it already has.

My bottom line: Conservative political types should not volunteer to serve in this administration, at least for now. They would probably have to make excuses for things that are inexcusable and defend people who are indefensible. At the very least, they should wait to see who gets the top jobs. Until then, let the Trump team fill the deputy assistant secretary and assistant secretary jobs with civil servants, retired military officers and diplomats, or the large supply of loyal or obsequious second-raters who will be eager to serve. The administration may shake itself out in a year or two and reach out to others who have been worried about Trump. Or maybe not.

By staying away, prospects will preserve their integrity while in opposition; those who join will prove to be – or soon become – as unsuitable as the man they serve.

The Next Secretary of the Interior?


While there is much talk about high-profile cabinet posts like State, Defense, and Justice, there are lower-profile posts that will still attract both interested parties and occasional controversies.  The Department of the Interior is among them.  Prospects for that cabinet secretary include  oil baron Forrest Lucas (a big contributor to Mike Pence’s gubernatorial campaigns), venture capitalist Robert Grady, Donald Trump, Jr., and Sarah Palin.
Randall O’Toole spots much better picks, with a better strategy, than the leading contenders:

As Secretary, either Palin or Lucas would be likely to try to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration and extraction. Bush tried this in 2001 and the environmentalists successfully prevented it. Instead of going after the most controversial piece of ground in the nation, Bush should have–and Trump should–start with opening less controversial areas to show that oil development is compatible with wildlife and other resources.

In the same way, instead of controversial figures like Palin or Lucas, Trump could ask Gary Johnson to be Secretary of the Interior. As a former western governor, Johnson is more familiar with public lands than Lucas. As a dedicated free marketeer, Johnson won’t be committed to one resource over all others; instead, he will try to find ways to maximize the value of all of them together.

Johnson’s Libertarian candidacy shouldn’t make him unacceptable, but if it does, how about current Arizona Governor Doug Ducey? As former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, Ducey isn’t identified with one natural resource or another. As a fiscally conservative Republican, Ducey should fit right in with Trump’s agenda.

See, A Non-Polarizing Secretary of the Interior @ Cato.

I would be stunned if Johnson got an offer, let alone took the job, but then being stunned isn’t so rare as it once was.  O’Toole’s right, though, to expect better than the conventional options (or certainly the unconventional option of Trump’s namesake.)

The Public Records Law Still Stands

After a push to alter Wisconsin’s Public Records Law (Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31-19.39), we’re now secure with the original law intact.  

Below one will find a recording of Wisconsin A.G. Brad Schimel’s Open Government Summit, held earlier this week at the Concourse in Madison.  

J.B. Hollen, Schimel’s immediate predecessor, started strongly in favor of the Public Records Law but was less supportive in his second term.  A.G. Schimel’s approach is better for the public, although it’s disadvantageous for public officials seeking to conceal information from the very residents to whom they are legally obligated.

(It’s also helpful that support for the law is widespread, and not confined to the party in opposition.  Two of the key opponents of gutting the law have been the MacIver Institute, a conservative think tank, and Rick Esenberg’s Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative-leaning public interest firm.)

But one has this problem, that has grown worse over these last few years: too many officials, in cities, towns, and universities, have decided that they can reply to a public records request however they’d like.  Replies like this are dares: will you go to court over this?  Alternatively, will you accept what we’ve supplied, however inadequate in reply it so obviously is? 

Some denials may be over fair questions of interpretation; that’s not what I’m describing.  Many denials are a test of one’s citizenship, of one’s rights in a free, well-ordered society: can someone successfully compel others to accept less than their rights require, consigning them to an inferior position in disregard of the law?

There’s no way to know how a requester will respond to an insufficient reply until the need arises, of course.  It’s helpful, though, to state plainly a path one will follow.  Having stated as much, officials will not be able to say they’ve been blindsided.

This summit was long, I know, and time is precious.  Still, there’s much in here, useful for thinking about government, on one’s own, rather than relying on officials’ superficial, self-serving declarations.  

If Universities Want Federal Money…

If universities want federal money (and they want as much as they can get), then it’s wrong for them to shirk federal legal standards for reporting assault and for proper treatment of those alleging assault. 

(Make no mistake: I’d contend that universities have a duty to manage campuses well and fairly even if there were no federal laws.  Ethical obligations of this kind are prior to law, and exist independently of it.)

Here, though, there’s a despicable hypocrisy: university officials gulp as much federal money as they can get, but of federal procedural standards for victims there may be not even a drop of support.

This libertarian has argued against any number of federal, state, or local governmental intrusions; I’ve argued against as many federal, state, and local expenditures. 

It’s impossible to respect university administrators who seek federal money while simultaneously concealing & mishandling assault claims, or trivializing federal or state standards about assault reporting.   

Administrators of that ilk want to promote themselves at taxpayers’ expense, and then hide their own misconduct from any and all. 

No, and no again: no one’s entitled to that. 

UW-Madison Now Joins UW-Whitewater Under Federal Title IX Investigation

In the Wisconsin State Journal this morning, one reads that a second Wisconsin school is under investigation for its handling of sexual assault complaints.  Dan Simmons writes that

UW-Madison is now the second university in the state to be included in a growing probe of possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The investigation now targets 101 schools, including UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater. The initial investigation was launched last May and included 55 schools, Whitewater among them.

See, in full, UW-Madison under federal investigation for handling of sexual violence complaints @ State Journal.

Investigations of this sort can involve either how a university reports incidents of sexual assault, or how it treats those who are trying to report allegations of sexual assault. 

One should be clear: federal law does not mandate – needless to say – that there will be no crimes on campus.  Federal law simply requires that, following allegations of sexual assault, universities that receive federal money will process complaints thoroughly and treat those involved in complaints fairly.

One would hope for campuses without violence; these present laws simply require that institutions taking federal public money should address allegations of assault to the high standards of which America is capable. 

There are thousands of four-year colleges in America; each one should be able to meet existing reporting and procedural requirements. 

That’s not asking too much; it’s asking only for the fundamental fairness and thoroughness our society deserves. 

The Public-Sector Public-Relations Problem

There’s almost no part of government, down to the smallest unit, that doesn’t approach the public as though a salesperson, as a matter of persuasion through public or media relations.

Consider how odd, how ironic, this situation is: government, whose authority derives in a free society only from the public, uses public resources to present itself craftily and deceptively to the very people to whom government owes its very existence

One would expect candor in that relationship, and instead one finds mostly sophistry. 

So, instead of presenting a story simply and humbly, public agencies use others’ money in taxes to present themselves as though they were not mere public officials, but angels, archangels, and demigods. 

If someone sent one of these officials out to report the weather, he’d return with a story about how he (personally and selflessly) braved a hurricane, two tornadoes, a hailstorm, and a thunderous avalanche, just to let others know that it was, in fact, sunny outside.

Of all the acts of government, few are so distorted as public men using public resources to exaggerate their own accomplishments, or understate their own mistakes, to the very people they claim to serve.